FPB Video: The Way

A new video in which we reveal the secrets behind all those ocean-crossing miles…

2016 Boats – some of my fav’s from last year

2016 boats – a few of my fav’s. It is no secret that one of my favorite subjects to photograph is boats or parts of boats. I LOVE shrimpers which was pretty apparent as I was going though my photos to find my 2016 boats favorites. So here they are – big boats, little boats and […]

The post 2016 Boats – some of my fav’s from last year appeared first on Moosetique.

St. Augustine to Ft. Pierce

We hope everyone had a happy holiday season. Our Christmas holidays were spent at the City Marina in St. Augustine while visiting with family and friends. We have stayed on the mooring balls here before but this was our first time at the city docks. We enjoyed the proximity to town and kept busy each […]

Some More Firsts…

It’s been a hectic week. Red Head was hauled for some out of the water work causing the kids to make some adjustments. We are at Hinckley Yacht Services in Stuart and the manager, Brian, kindly offered us the use of a conference room to hold the kids. …

ICW Mile 0 to Mile 12: Portsmouth to Great Bridge

Except for a brief transit around the Palm Beach area, we’ve not traveled the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Dirona. In our first leg along the ICW, we headed 12 miles south from Portsmouth, Virginia to the town of Great Bridge. Depths were at least 10 feet all the way, except for about 8.5ft at Great…

DOMINO 20 2017-01-14 00:07:00

ADIEU NEW CALEDONIA

December 6, 2016 – Ile des Pins

DOMINO at anchor in Baie de l’Orphelinat, Noumea

This is our last day in New Caledonia, after 10 weeks and a fantastic circumnavigation.  Still, there is so much we haven’t seen!  But New Zealand calls and there is a small—very small— weather window… so, off we are.

NOVEMBER RAIN at anchor in Baie de l’Orphelinat, Noumea

Who showed up 3 days ago in Noumea?  None other than our Kiwi buddies Garry and Lori, the fisherman/woman extraordinaire on board their Malcolm Tennant Powercat “November Rain.”  

DOMINO and NOVEMBER RAIN side by side
We’ve been buddy-boating with these guys for over a year, off and on.  We first met them at Port Denarau in Fiji over a year ago.  We bumped into them again last year in New Zealand as we were on our way around the top to meet the Ski-NZ Rally.  We knew they were in Vanuatu all season, hooking up Marlin and big game.  But how fun it was to hear them honk at us as they idled on our stern in Port Moselle.  Yes, they were going to take advantage of the weather window; yes, we would do a bit of seaway together; yes, we were all going to Opua.

NOVEMBER RAIN at Ile d’Ouen
Rushed for time, we realized that we could not hit all the southern anchorages we had planned on: forget the Baie du Prony (oh, supposedly fantastic diving) – Forget the Phare Amedee – Forget all the natural reserves of the Great South — we forged on and overnighted at Ile Ouen where JP started to clean the hulls and props in preparation for the crossing.

Ile des Pins
ILE DES PINS – This, according to cruisers, is a favorite destination.  Yes, the island is beautiful, dotted with columnar pines.  The sand is talcum-powder quality.  The turtles that cruise around are gigantic.  We stopped there for a few hours to finish to clean the props as “November Rain” was already on her way to NZ.

DOMINO at anchor… between stops
Just like that, it was time to go… we got slammed a bit with wind in the 20’s and beam seas as we exited New Cal, but the wind soon calmed down to 10-15 and the seas flattened out to give us another marvelous ride at 11-12 Kts all the way to New Zealand.


What next?  New Zealand for the season, haul out, a visit to the US… then… who knows?

Until next time…

Adieu, New Caledonia
dominomarie

NEW CALEDONIA – West Coast

NEW CALEDONIA  –   West Coast –  An Underwater Paradise
October 2106 
Oh, I suppose it could take for ever to explore the West Coast of New Caledonia and we certainly could have spent many more weeks in that area.  The snorkeling is superb, especially in the reserves that have been set up along the outer reef.  We purposely skipped all land stops, even Koumac, to concentrate on observing the reef.

Most of the west coast can be navigated inside the lagoon, except for about 90 miles between Baie de Chasseloup and Baie de St Vincent.  But the fishing outside is splendind, as we hooked up a 200-lb black marlin and lost another marlin, that one enormous, in the 400-lb range!  So, I’ll take you along our route.

1st Stop: Ilot Yande  – 20*03.639S – 163*47.354E  – This is one more day anchorage given to us by “Spirare” and we gave it a shot.  I guess Serge is a more daring sailor than we are!  JP scanned the bottom to drop anchor and all we could see was coral heads under the hull.  




The swell rolling in through the pass would have pushed DOMINO towards the reef and we felt uncomfortable dropping anchor at that point.  Off went.




2nd Stop: Neba20*09.384S – 163*54.890E –  Much better!!  Sandy bottom, protected from the roll, and nobody in sight.  We found the best snorkeling at the SW end of the island.  For hours, I let myself get lost in soft coral, gardens of anemones, and a kaleidoscope of tropical fish.  We spent 2 days, caught spiny lobsters (the locals allowed us 2 per day) and just filled our eyes and hearts with colors.
3nd Stop: Baie du Croissant – 20*16.779S – 164*01.882E –  You’re gonna ask me, how many dives does it take before you get sick of it?  Every dive is different.  Every snorkeling experience is special in its own way.  Here, the reef extension at the south end of the bay sports an amazing anemone and soft coral forest in pastel colors of mauve, pistachio, pale yellow, soft grey… colors that we’d not seen before.  
A weary octopus is eyeing me!

Juvenile yellow boxfish
Lobster time!


Snorkel around and you might find yourself in a hot pool springing from the sandy bottom, and suddenly black and rust algae are all around.  You never know what you will find: spiny lobsters love to hide under coral flowers… go find one!

DO YOU KNOW YOUR BUTTERFLYFISH? ID These!














































4th Stop: Ile Tanle – 20*18.785S – 164*04.824E – The Poum Peninsula offers good protection from weather… and weather was upon us, so we tucked into Tanle Bay to weather a stormy night.  Don’t expect much in terms of snorkeling: we hoped to find good stuff at Little Tanle, a sand island covered with low brush, but we found it entirely surrounded with a tangle of purple staghorn coral: pretty but no fun to snorkel!  The entire bay is somewhat marred by the scars of mining, the hills dry and dusty, but it was a good stop in a blow.


5th Stop: Chasseloup –  20*57.773S – 164*39.238E – We exited Tanle in the morning and, taking advantage of a no-wind situation, exited the lagoon and went fishing… yes! Hooked up 2 black marlins, caught a wahoo, and had a load of fun!








The anchorage at Chasseloup is enormous, good holding, and again an easy stop.  The shore offered no interest to us, another mining harbor, but easy in and out.  Actually, we were in a rush to get to St. Vincent Bay as bad weather was on the horizon.


6th Stop – St. Vincent Bay – Ile de Puen – 21*57.827S – 165*57.431E – St Vincent Bay is a large complex of islands, peninsulas, bays and nooks where one can spend weeks exploring, fishing, hunting, crabbing, clamming, or just do nothing at all!


Just drop anchor in front of the old campground and horse ranch. This is another good anchorage in a blow.  We tried to snorkel the Canal de Puen: the worst ever!!  Zero visibility, totally dead coral heads, no fish.  Better to snorkel the west end: much to see there!

7th Stop – Ile Tenia – 22*00.115S – 165*56.567E – 

NATURAL RESERVE – NO FISHING/HUNTING   –   

Juvenile Clown Coris
By far one of our favorite spots to snorkel, especially the north-east end of the island.  Home to massive spiny lobsters, this is a good anchorage by calm weather.  

“Big Ben” – The biggest ever
Lots to see… including the banded black and white snake!

On our second visit, we took the dinghy out and snorkeled the outer reef (22*00.720S – 165*55.811E) – To find the exit through the reef, find the 2 sticks/flags on the western end of the island!
How well do you know your coral?




















8th Stop: Baie des Moustiques – HURRICANE HOLE  –  21*59.948S – 166*03.052E – 
Another storm was upon us and we hid in that hole for 4 days… no mosquito, though!  We found an excellent harvest of cockles and rock mussels along the sandy beaches of the bay.  We tried to snorkel the wester end of the island, but the visibility was nil after 4 days of heavy winds and swell.  YES< excellent hurricane hole!

Reef is everywhere
9th Stop: Ile Ndukue – 22*.06.062S – 166.07.039E – OUR FAVORITE!!!

Ndukue… what is there not to like?
Our absolute favorite.  You can snorkel every day and never see the same thing… plenty of shells: cowries, tritons, Murex, fusiform conch, and then some!  
Pipefish
The outer reef of Ile Mathieu hosts all kinds of coral, while its inner reef is all about sand and seaweeds.
The shore at the anchorage is lined with mangroves, and locals line up to find mangrove crabs, those large black crabs that have such a sweet flesh (not in season while we were there…)  
Nudibranch
So many Murex

T



















hat same shore is home to all kinds of mud creatures, including the elusive CROCODILE fish!
The reef between Ndukue and Ile Moro is an unbroken coral garden with incursions of anemones and soft corals.  
How well do you know your coral?
































Across the channel, the large reef is yet another experience in soft corals in psychedelic colors. and more Fern Starfish

And again, many cruisers drift-dive the pass (but not for us).  And so many colorful giant clams!

Found another Triton!

Oriental Sweetlips

 10th Stop: Ile Moro – 22*07.008S – 166*09.862E – Another cool little anchorage by calm weather.



11th Stop: Ile Ronhua – 22*03.963S – 166*01.841E – Yet another lovely snorkeling spot by fair weather – Two great snorkels: along the C-shaped reef, and (for a different experience with snakes) the shallow reef to the east.


So much …. so much… so lovely… 
 Even eels and snakes  and lionfish look fine!

































And now, it’s time to think of our next destination: the Great South… but will we have time?

Until next time…

dominomarie

DOMINO 20 2017-01-13 17:44:00

NEW CALEDONIA  –  The Great North

October 2016
The Great North Reef at Ile Pott
We had been advised not to cruise the Great North, supposed to be a cradle of violent independentists.  But the lagoon looked too stunning and we just ignored that warning.  In each village, we took care of presenting the “Coutume,” ask for permission to cruise, snorkel, hunt and fish, and we took care to meet the locals.

Our Great North Circuit:  from Baie de Pam to Balabio and the Beleps (Ile Art, Ile Pott)
Balabio Reef and Island 

1st stop: BALABIO – 20*03.500S – 164*09.800E
–  The Balabio Reef is extensive.  Our friends Serge & Joann (S/V “Spirare”) had advised us to anchor west of the Ilots Saint-Phalle (20*06.632S – 164*06.239E) and walk the reef at low tide, but the tide was not with us: high at mid-day, the tide would be low by late afternoon and there was no way we were going to anchor in such an exposed area and walk the reef at night.  We had to pass on this excellent stop.

Between Balabio and the Beleps: The Daos

Instead, we proceeded directly to Fine Bay and anchored easily in 7 meters of water over sand.  SAND!  Blue water!  At last… Quick in the water!!!

The reef is quite beat-up and home to big jellyfish (rather inoffensive)
whose large white disks dot the way into Balabio

The reef on the north end of the bay was a bit beaten up, still it was lovely to snorkel amid anemones, find giant clams again, spot a few spiny lobsters and look for the little creatures between the rocky crags.  On shore, though, is where we were blown away by the geology.  Quartz in all colors, mauve, orange, purple; amorphous glass; so many pretty granites that I wanted to load and bring on board!  

Unlike the smooth giant clams we’d seen before, these have scallopped shells

In Waala, the local girls are the ones going up the coconut tree!


We didn’t see anyone on shore, no building, no village.  But the snorkeling wasn’t quite what we were looking for, so we moved north.
Waala Bay, Ile Art (Beleps) – The inner mall-boat harbor.

Waala Bay: red sand and gravel shore

Ile Art (Beleps) Waala Bay anchorage

2nd stop: ILE ART (Belep Islands)  – Waala Bay 19*42.841S – 163*38.566E – This is a MUST STOP – In Waala, you must present la “Coutume” to the Grand Chef.  He controls the Great North.  His hut is easy to find: anchor in Waala (see point above) and land your dinghy while aiming towards the mark planted on shore.  

Waala Bay… see the yello mark on shore, left of the pangas?  That’s the Chief’s compound.
Make sure to head towards the church before turning left toward the mooring balls

Make sure to favor the east end in order to avoid the reef (save your dinghy’s prop!)  The Chief is cool.  He took us to the great “Case” and accepted our gifts, chatted for a while… and off we were, OK to visit the entire Great North!

The Chief clears us in!
The conch rang: time to go for bread, hand-worked and wood-fire baked!

Waala Bay is not a good spot for snorkeling.  Again, the water is very minerally charged, visibility not so good… however, there is a small boat harbor and a regular ferry service from Koumac (main land.)  It’s a sheltered anchorage and, in a few days we would have to return to seek shelter while another front passes.

In October, the water is not too warm… and the spiny lobsters plentiful!

The town is quite lively and divided between clans.  Each clan has its own bakery and grocery store.  If you’re waiting for bread, you’ll know that it’s baked when you hear the baker sound the Triton conch!

Snorkeling the top of the reef, you can find these giant Tritons.
Take pix and put them back.  Not only are they illegal to take, but they are the only
natural predators to the reef-eating Acanthaster 

3rd stop: Ile Pott – 19*34.687S – 163*35.132E –  That’s what I’m talking about!!!!  Completely surrounded by reefs, this fantastic anchorage is a slice of Paradise. 

The way into Pott’s anchorage

There is not a lot of room and DOMINO certainly filled a fair slice of the anchorage.  The entrance is narrow, best entered at low tide for best visibility over the reef, and better favor the southern shore: it has fewer underwater surprises!! 

Striking purple coral
We spent 4 days in Pott and would have spent more if a front and bad weather had not called us back to Waala Bay.  What can I say about this place but that it’s some of the most pristine snorkeling we’ve ever found.  I let you enjoy the pictures.

Add caption

Next?  The West Coast and its reserves and sancturaries… you ain’t seen anything yet!

Till next time…

Fern seastar: this starfish sports up to 20 arms and buries its body into coral holes and between rocks
dominomarie

NEW CALEDONIA – East Coast

NEW CALEDONIA – East Coast – In search of good holding.
October 2017


Hienghene – A gem not to be missed

Circumnavigating New Caledonia is typically done in a counter-clockwise fashion.  Since the prevalent trade winds are SE, it’s wiser to cruise northward along the east coast, pushed by the Trades, and travel south along the west coast, sheltered from the Trades.  Well, that’s the usual plan.  As for the Great North, just look for calm days because there is nowhere to run!


Our route:  Kouakoue, Port Bouquet, Lifou, Ouvea,
Beautemps-Beaupre, Hienghene, Baie de Pam


The East coast —referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”— is magnificent: rugged, wooded, with high peaks and rocky shores, dotted with high columnar pines firmly planted in the rich, red soil.  New Cal is a prime exporter of mineral, Nickel being the foremost, but also chromite, copper, gold, iron ore, manganese, and silver.  For once, I found that the trips ashore were as interesting as the underwater discoveries.  

  

STOPS TO AVOID — Kanak independentists are very active and sometimes violent.  they have been known to throw cow carcasses into the harbor in Canala to prevent access to the town.  From Canala, bands of activists regularly infiltrate and agitate the surrounding areas, particularly around Mont D’or.  During our stay, activists regularly blocked the main road and several times attacked the regular police force and even took aim at the firefighters!  Here are the stops you DON’T want to make:  Canala and Kouaoua


Ouinne and Kouakoue bays


Stop #1 – KOUAKOUE  (We bypassed Ouinne as the SE wind did not favor that anchorage)  For a first glimpse at the Easter Wilderness, this large bay filled us with peace, earthy smells, green slopes and red earth… and a choice of anchoring spots… well… kind of…

– The sandy beach on the eastern side of the bay is private: no anchoring there!

– The southern part of the bay seems to offer great protection from the Trades, but as we tried to set the anchor, we only bit into coral rubble… not good!


Nice snapper, right?  Except that we both got Ciguatera poisoning from it!
Better stay away from lagoon fish.
– The western end of the bay, then! 21*55.804S – 166*38.595E – With the wind staying below 5 Kts, there was little risk of rolling.  BAM! The anchor dropped through 8 meters of rust-color water, sunk into the earthy bottom, and just stuck there.  Lovely anchorage indeed, and not a soul around… no fish either… but a good overnight stop in Pure Nature.



Port Bouquet – Before dropping anchor, scan the bottom!
Stop #2 – PORT BOUQUET   This looked like a great stop and fishing spot, a lagoon entirely surrounded by reef, and no wind at all that day.  That looked like promising snorkeling.  Well, don’t count on snorkeling on the East coast.  The water is heavy with minerals and visibility marginal.  And the anchoring??? 

Marbled grouper on the line… uhm…. not to big, will attempt eating it… Ciguatera warning!

Armed with waypoints and directions, we proceeded to Anse Toupeti, where the depth seemed OK… 10 meters would be perfect, right?  But as JP sounded the bottom with the DFF3 Fish Finder, all he saw was peaks and valleys, bommies, coral heads, boulders and rocks, nowhere to drop the anchor.  

For hours, we toured the lagoon: Anse Lemia, the north coast of Ile Nemou: it was the same bottom relief: coral and rocks.  At least, we trolled around the reef and caught a nice sierra, but still had not found a decent spot to anchor.  It would have been great to anchor in front of St. Roch and visit the village, visit the mines… but we didn’t feel comfortable with dropping the hook in rocks and coral. 
  


Dog-tooth Tuna: all day long!


Toupeti: 21*41.304S – 166*25.503E -At last, JP wedged DOMINO in a small sandy spot, surrounded by big boulders, and with terrible anxiety I dropped the hook in 3 meters of water, on a short scope, hoping that we would clear the rocks all around us.  If the shore was as lush and inviting as could be, the water was not.  It was a short night, and the morning saw us escape East, to the Loyalty Islands.



Hienghene River… Can you say GREEN?
Stop #3 – Hienghene – 20*41.012S – 164*56.879E – As you know, I’m not a land person and I go to shore as little as possible.  Not for me, the trips, trecks, walks, promenades, views from the top… no sireee… I’m a water baby!  

“Tour Notre Dame”… AKA “La Poule” (The Hen)

But Hienghene got my attention, stole my heart, and I actually went on a 3-hour walk in the hills.
  It’s a MUST !!! 


Drunk with the smell of Niaouli (the local wild eucalyptus) we drunk more: the views on “La Poule,” (the hen-shaped rock that guard the bay), the green lagoon that receives the Chester Cliffs, the green river that snakes all the way into the bay.  

The green inner lagoon inside the Chester Cliffs

We forgot about fishing and snorkeling again (nothing there) and enjoyed the walk, the small town, a nice meal at the “pension” and a very quiet anchorage.


Baie de Pam


Stop #4 – Baie de Pam – 20*14.190S – 164*18.234E – Woops…. the Trades are blowing hard, 20Kts and forecast to reach 30-35!  Time to seek shelter.  At the northern end of the East coast, the very deep Baie de Pam offers excellent holding and shelter.  From Hienhene to Pam, the inner reef channel offers good protection from the swells, and with the wind in our back, the passage was a cinch… and we landed some nice fish:  dog tooth tuna (plentiful in the north!) – 



All I managed to catch was a Giant Estuarine Moray

Well dug-in at the bottom of the 800-meter hill, we waited for the storm.  But we were attacked by a storm of another kind:  FIRE!  What had started as a small brush fire along the road was slowly expanding, and as the wind picked up the entire hill was on fire.  Gusts at 30+ were fanning the flames and pushing the smoke towards us.  It was an ugly 48 hours, filled with wind and smoke and nowhere to run.  That’s the way it goes… 

Smoked-out!
Brush fires are, indeed, a major problem on the islands.  “Controlled” burns too often go out of control, the vegetation is decimated, the land bare, and subsequent rain washes out the soil, creates landslides.  During our last week in NC, a major landslide occurred on the East coast, killing 8 people.  Farmers are active in educating against the slash/burn technique, but it may be too late to save the island.


The wind has died, the fire lingers… and we’re off… to the Great North!

Till next time…

dominomarie

Norfolk, Virginia

Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base with ships ranging from aircraft carriers to destroyers to nuclear submarines. Navy ships are moored on both sides of the the channel into Norfolk, with security patrol craft in the air. The city also has a large and busy shipping port. As a fitting envoy, we…